Heathrow records busiest month since pandemic forced closures

More than 1.5 million passengers passed through the London airport in July, the most since March 2020

London's Heathrow Airport is pushing for more routes to be opened up. PA / Getty

The UK’s travel recovery appears to be taking off as the easing of Covid-19 restrictions has led to more people boarding international flights.

London's Heathrow Airport, in many years Europe's busiest, reported on Tuesday that July was its busiest month since the pandemic forced the closure of airports, with air travel reduced mainly to essential business only.

Heathrow bosses said “barriers to travel” remained but welcomed the start of the “long road to recovery”.

More than 1.5 million passengers passed through Heathrow in July – 74 per cent more than in July 2020 but 81 per cent down on July 2019.

“Finally, some blue skies are on the horizon, as travel and trade routes slowly reopen. The job, though, is far from complete,” Heathrow's chief operating officer Emma Gilthorpe said.

“Government must now capitalise on the vaccine dividend and seize the opportunity to replace expensive PCR tests with more affordable lateral flow tests.

“This will ensure travel remains attainable for hard-working Brits, desperate for well-earned getaways and keen to reunite with loved ones before the summer travel window closes.”

North American passenger numbers grew by 230 per cent year on year but the figure was still only 232,000 people.

Since the start of August, fully vaccinated US visitors can fly to Britain without quarantine mandates, meaning more people are expected to make the trip for holidays.

Heathrow also wants the US to move the UK on to its safe flying list for fully vaccinated travellers to open up the routes for leisure passengers going the other way.

As more countries hit vaccination milestones, more of the suspended routes can reopen, Heathrow chiefs said.

The easing of UK travel restrictions in early May led to the rising demand for air travel in July. Heathrow reopened Terminal 3, after it was closed for more than a year due to the near-shutdown of international travel.

In June, the airport's chief executive John Holland-Kaye predicted Heathrow would attract more passengers, additional berths for low-cost airlines and a range of new shops as it responds to post-pandemic travel trends.

American low-cost airline JetBlue is landing at Heathrow for the first time this week.

Updated: August 11, 2021, 12:19 PM